By Lynn Miller
Photo Credit: London Roddy-Jones

Bronzeville’s future is bright! As shown by the recent installation of the mural, located near 38th and Michigan, telling a modern story of Bronzeville’s history with an eye towards the future. Legendary historical figures such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Ida B. Wells and Harold Washington are graced on the walls of the mural. In addition to sharing rich Chicago’s history, the mural serves as an educational component. ComEd’s partnership with the non-profit organization, Before It’s Too Late, involves smart kiosks that will tell stories relating to climate change.

The Bronzeville Renaissance Mural project is a collaboration between ComEd, Curators Andre and Frances Guichard of Gallery Guichard, local artists Rahman Statik and Shawn Warren along with Little Black Pearl workshop students. Together, this combined group of young and experienced artists designed the mural, chronicling some of the most iconic African Americans Bronzeville’s 100-year history.

This colorful permanent installation as part of ComEd’s ‘Community of the Future’ campaign was announced it received state approval for a $30 million plan to build an isolated microgrid in the Bronzeville Community Microgrid project.

The “microgrid” for Bronzeville is a pilot project, to demonstrate whether the localized power-distribution networks can improve reliability and facilitate greater use of renewable sources like solar power. The completed project will serve approximately 1,060 residential, commercial, and small industrial customers.“ The Microgrid Project is very much alive,” said Brian Parker of Flowers Communication Group. “It’s also not exclusive to Bronzeville. ComEd and the Bronzeville community want to figure out how to make all the components work cohesively. Once they have a strong blueprint for how it will work, people in Chicago will start to see this model replicated in other neighborhoods and communities.”

“Overall, this project can help create a connected, resilient, and sustainable community where customers are able to fully leverage state-of-the-art technologies to drive efficiencies, create savings, and enhance the quality of life.The mural and augmented reality app will bring increased awareness to the climate crisis, celebrate the history of Bronzeville, and generate excitement for the future of advanced energy solutions in the neighborhood,” said ComEd’s Director, Distribution Planning, Smart Grid & Innovation.

A combination of advanced technology, art, and community engagement converged to provide opportunities for students at Bronzeville’s Little Black Pearl. This provides an opportunity for students to highlight decarbonization, raise awareness about climate change, and promote beneficial electrification efforts, all while celebrating Bronzeville’s rich cultural and artistic history. This mural will serve as a model for similar initiatives going forward.

Before It’s Too Late a nonprofit arts organization founded out of MIT and based in Miami, Florida has a goal to support the Bronzeville Renaissance Mural with a built-in augmented reality component. Before It’s Too Late’s mission is to research, create, innovate, inspire and share.

Technology pieces will be activated around the community using kiosks (installation of kiosks TBD). Exhibit visitors will be able to scan the mural with your phone and then view video content that dives deeper into Bronzeville’s story. The deeper story covers how climate change effects the neighborhood and what individuals can do to help better their local environment for the future.

Local artists Rahmann Statik and Shawn Warren brought in by the Guichard curators as they stated it was important to support community artist. “Every neighborhood needs landmarks as part of their community’s identity…Bronzeville needs more public art that represents Black people.

We need it to identify who lives in this neighborhood. It needs to illustrate your past, present and future. . . This is like a new community landmark for the neighborhood of Bronzeville” pointed out Statik.

“Each person has their own stories to tell. Murals bring the human narrative and connection to each person the moment they see them.”

In the inception of planning the students from Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy Students (Daniel Selles, E’daja Willis, Gabrielle Griffin, Kendell Rasco & Lamaya Witkins) submitted mock-ups of what they envisioned for the mural. Their submission also included a backstory:

“We’d love for people to be attracted to Bronzeville with all of our murals and be able to get the stories about our history. . .Art softens the community.” added Andre Guichard.